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Despite Being Development-Oriented, President Ouattara Accused of Tribalism and Religious Politics

Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara

ABIDJAN (Globe Afrique) — A ceremony was held Friday in Cote d’Ivoire to officially mark the initiation of electricity generation at Soubre hydroelectric power station, which was built by a Chinese company. This is a sign that President Alassane Ouattara is development oriented, but there are accusations of tribalism and religiously-bent high-level political culture.

Amadou Gon Coulibaly, prime minister of Cote d’Ivoire, attended the event and spoke highly of the cordial cooperation between the two countries.

He said that the government of Cote d’Ivoire was satisfied with the quality of the project, expressing thanks for the diligence of the workers from both countries.

Launched in February 2013, the project started generating electricity on May 25, about eight months ahead of schedule, according to the constructor Sinohydro Corporation Limited, which is under PowerChina.

Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly

Chinese Ambassador to Cote d’lvoire Tang Weibin said the completion of the power station would greatly improve the power supply in the country, providing solid foundation for the industries, including mining, in the country to develop and injecting vitality into its socioeconomic development in the long run.

“The project also laid foundation for China and Cote d’Ivoire to strengthen their cooperation,” said Tang, who described the power station as an benchmark achievement of the bilateral cooperation.

The power station have won applause from international experts. The hydroelectric project is “of high quality,” said Alexis Tesson, a design engineer with Tractebel Engineering.

Tesson has been working on site for about three years and oversees quality control. He applauded the “China speed” displayed in the construction of the power station.

With an installed capacity of 275 MW, the 4.5-km-long Soubre dam is the largest of its kind by far in the western African country.

The cost of the project is about 572 million U.S. dollars, of which 85 percent is financed by China and 15 percent by Cote d’Ivoire.

Major General Ahmad Sekou Touré – Ivory Coast Chief of Defense Staff

The construction of the power station has generated thousands of jobs and is expected to improve people’s lives in the country.

According to the government of Cote d’lvoire, part of the electricity produced in the country is supplied to Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Meanwhile, while some in the Ivory Coast applaud the good works of the current president, they accused him of tribalism and failure to promote national unity and reconciliation.

The accusation stemmed from the president and the prime minister both coming from the same tribal and religious group. President Alassane Ouatarra, his prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, and his chief of staff of the army Major General Sekou Touré, are all from the Dyula speaking tribal group known generally in West Africa as the Mandingoes.

Major General Sekou Touré is preceded by Gen Soumaila Bakayoko, a former top rebel commander in the Ivory Coast who sided with and fought for group loyal to Ouattara in 2010 when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing the presidential election.

One Ivorian citizen and activist in New York (who refused to be named) said tribalism and religious domineering are some of the reasons Ivorians have been afraid of Ouattara and a Mandingo leadership in the Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast’s former chief of defense staff, Gen. Soumaila Bakayoko, in green uniform, inspects members of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center.

He argued that while Ouattara is development oriented, he is afraid that the Ivory Coast will be become an Islamic and Mandingo-dominated nation soon just as Yahya Jammeh made the Gambia an Islamic state when he was in power.

He called on President Ouattara to focus on national reconciliation and prevent tribal domineering of state power.

The Ivory Coast has long been a peaceful nation and a country that welcomes people from every corner to live and work.  This open door policy was initiated by the founding president of the country, Houphout Boigny, Christian (catholic) who first appointed Ouattara as president despite strong opposition from many in his inner circles that Ouattara was not a real Ivorian citizen because one or more of his parents migrated from neighboring Burkina Faso, according to the charge against him.

Ouattara disputed those charges and stayed for a long time as an opposition leader. Despite Ouattara’s denial, some Ivorian say Guineans, Malians and Burkinabe have taken advantage of their country’s open door policy.  They cite former Ouattara’s aide (Sydia Toure) when he was prime minister of the Ivory Coast.  Sydia Toure, a Guinean, then at the time claimed to be an Ivorian citizen and rose to prominent political positions under Ouattara.  But after he was offer the position of prime minister of Guinea by the late Guinean president General Lassanna Conte, he professed being a Guinean national and left the Ivory Coast.

Guineans, Malians, Burkinabes, Ghanians, Nigerians and others flock to neighboring countries in West Africa to assumed citizenship and participate in politics and business.  But a Sierra Leonean, Paul Alpha Richards of New Jersey, says while it is not a bad idea for people from other West African states to seek citizenship and livelihood in other West African nations, it should be done on equal footing.  He said Guineans, Malians, Ghanaians and Nigerians  will not easily permit a Sierra Leonean descendent to hold a political position in their country.  He said with the exception of Senegal, The Gambia, Nigeria, Liberia and the Ivory Coast, Ghana is worse when it comes artificial nationalism against other West Africans.

President Ouattara has a serious work to do in reconciling the country and in eliminating the perception of tribalism against him and his administration.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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